NWT curler Kerry Galusha and her team are making northern curling history as they prepare for a tournament that could send them to trials for the 2022 Canadian Olympic team.
Galusha emerged victorious at a “pre-pre-trial” event in Ottawa from September 22 to 26, clinching a win in a tight game against Jessie Hunkin from Saskatchewan.
Snagging one of two spots up for grabs, the team of four – skip Galusha, third Jo-Ann Rizzo, second Margot Flemming, and lead Sarah Koltun – now head to pre-trials in Liverpool, Nova Scotia at the end of October.
There, they’ll compete against seven other teams for a spot in a third tournament that decides who represents Canada in women’s curling at the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing.
It’s the first time the Northwest Territories has been represented in an Olympic trial process.
“We’re really excited,” Galusha, sister to fellow curling heavyweights Kevin and Jamie Koe, told Cabin Radio by phone. “It feels really good because our team has always worked hard and we’ve always tried to put the NWT on the map for curling.
“People always know the Koe name in curling, and they know who I am, and they know who my teammates are, but this is just seems like a whole other level. This event happens every four years, so it’s really exciting to just even have this chance.”
Injuries and workarounds
September’s tournament in Ottawa was hard-fought. The team weathered a lack of ice to practice on in the Northwest Territories and an injury that led to major position changeups.
Galusha is currently recovering from a herniated disc in her lower lumbar spine and dealing with pain in her left leg, hip, and glute. To help her recovery, the team has switched up the order in which members throw.
Jo-Ann Rizzo plays third on the team but has been throwing rocks last. Galusha praised her performance in September’s tournament.
“Jo-Ann played amazing,” she said. “In our final game, she made some unbelievable shots that I didn’t even know how we were going to score, and she bailed us out numerous times. She was on fire.”
Rizzo simply laughed.
“Sometimes when you’re feeling it, you’re feeling it,” she said. “Kerry did a great job reading the ice and with the strategy, so you put your trust in the fact that the broom is in the right place.
“Sometimes, that works out.”
Still riding high after Ottawa, the team must prepare for one of its biggest tournaments to date. Pre-trials are set for October 25 to 31 in Liverpool, Nova Scotia.
Galusha’s rink will compete in a tournament in Oakville, Ontario this weekend to get more practice time. She said the weeks leading up to the Nova Scotia pre-trials will be about strategizing as a team and getting focused with a sports psychologist.
“It’s going to be tough to come out of the pre-trials,” Galusha said. “There are 14 teams and only two come out, but we’re guaranteed six games down there. In curling, anyone can beat anyone on every given day, so we just hope that we get better and more consistent.”
Rizzo, who is from Ontario and is the one out-of-jurisdiction player each team is allowed, has competed at the Olympic trials before with well-known curler Sherry Middaugh.
“I competed in Winnipeg, and that was to go to the Sochi Olympics,” she explained. “We lost in the final … we were one game away.
“The crowd was overwhelming, but I think you get used to that and you just try to do what you’re out there to do. With Covid, I don’t think crowds are very big these days anyway.”
Galusha said the team is just happy to have the opportunity to compete.
“We never really cared much about the points chase,” she said, “but this year, we’re getting points, we’re winning money, and we’re having fun doing that.”